Tulle late.

The dress is not yet finished, but I have five hours, so you know, I’m not concerned. (The phrase “not concerned” is here used to mean that I am panicked beyond all reason.)

While I am sworn not to reveal the exact nature of the dress until the child dons it this evening, I can tell you that it includes the following.


1. Eight metres of tulle. If you don’t know about tulle, it’s that sheer stuff in the top of the picture. They use if for bridal veils. We are using Eight metres (that’s 26 feet, for anybody not making the metric leap) of 140cm wide black tulle. The living room looks like a satanic wedding party played strip poker in there.

2. A bodice which (while it has no inset) has boning. I was ripping along yesterday minding my own business, (you know, just me and the voluminous black cloud of tulle.) and I was sewing the bodice together and got to this instruction about inserting the boning in the boning casing and the bottom just dropped out of the world. Boning? What the hell is boning?

3. A trip to Fabricland where I was a assured by several members of the staff (who were not very openminded, let me tell you) that the purpose of boning is to stiffen the bodice and that they don’t believe that there is any amount of fusible interfacing that you can iron into a bodice to get out of putting in boning. (Though they did seem amused by my multilayer fabric stiffening plan.)

It turns out they are right.

4. A very long zipper. I hate putting in zippers. Hate. It. I actually sort of hate sewing in general…which makes me wonder why the hell I’m sitting here surrounded by clouds of tulle, bewildering instructions (There is no armhole. How can I sew facing to it? Liars. Manipulative stinking liars.), scattered snips of turquoise fabric, elastic, boning and a very perplexed cat.

Also hanging around are my chinese scissors, which so many of you asked about yesterday. I got them at Lee Valley Tools, from whence so many very, very cool things come.

(Like this, or this, or this…or wait, we bought my brother this.)

The boring baby blanket is at the halfway mark, from here it’s just a game of stamina.


I’ve taken all current socks in progress out of my backpack and put the blanket in, thus giving me absolutely no choice but to knit it. I hate it when it comes down to dirty tricks. (Know any?)

It’s going to be a long second half.

80 thoughts on “Tulle late.

  1. You must be a competent sewer to have taken on this project – my mother sewed my prom dress out of a teal fabric similar to what I see here – I would have LOVED black tulle and corsetry in mine (so very 80s)!
    Oh, and sewing the hem on the dress five seconds before it’s time to leave is par for the course.
    You have a lucky daughter!

  2. I think the blanket is lovely and wonderful and will reward you in the end for your perseverance. Can’t wait to see the dress!

  3. I swear sometimes that those daughters of yours are trying to send you to an early grave. And I won’t even touch the whole “boning” thing. There are going to be some very disappointed perverts when they find out that this is a blog about knitting…

  4. a woman after my own heart!! not a procrastinator, but a staunch idealist! i would have the idea to make a dress for a big event the day before and think nothing of it (while others shudder)
    it looks amazing … i hope those girls know how very very lucky they are to have you (if not now, they will eventually steph)

  5. Isn’t it against the rules somehow to have so many projects going on that you hate having to work on? Cotton, sewing, the dreaded blanket? You’ll definitely have to make up for the dress (boning? ack!) and blanket with something light and lacy and enjoyable that will make the rest of us fall to the floor in awe because you, of course, whipped it out in approximately 3 minutes flat.
    5 hours… just figure out how many minutes it is and it’ll seem a little longer. You can do it. And if not… is there a backup just in case??

  6. I don’t suppose it’ll be much comfort to know the one dress I made with boning — 20 years ago – a strapless satin bridesmaid number, is the MOST popular “dress-up” dress in our box. The neighborhood girls borrow it for special occassions, and I won’t be shocked if it goes to the prom in a few years πŸ˜‰

  7. Oh, my. Black tulle. You wouldn’t happen to want to sew my wedding dress, would you? I think black tulle would be smashing. πŸ™‚

  8. I love the colours!
    Looking forward to seeing the finished dress (make sure you photograph it *before* big do!
    P.S.Boning is a good thing, for instance it helps sails keep their right shape. D.S.

  9. You’re mad you know.. utterly mad, but a great mum. I couldn’t be that great I don’t think, although I have been icing cakes at midnight and later. Ever tried to make a Naboo Starfighter out of sponge cake and fondant icing.. and we won’t even talk about R2D2.
    I love the blanket, absolutely, completely love it. It looks so soft and snuggly, it is going to become Blankie to that new baby. It will be dragged around behind them for years and years, it will go on picnics, parties and trips to the zoo and end up tucked away in a box waiting for grandkids.

  10. Ok, time to draw out that old hack line…it’s the process. That’s a good trick,however because we HAVE to knit regarless of the project.
    You are wonder woman if you can get that dress done (and beautifully done). But we already know that.

  11. I wish I could help πŸ™‚ I sew LOTS, and have made dresses with boning before. It’s actually quite simple to put in, and it really does help strengthen the bodice. My favourite thing to use for boning is cable ties (zip strips). You cut them the proper length, quickly sand the ends so they won’t cut through the fabric, and voila! Cheap and fast.

  12. When my step mother sewed her wedding dress she finished it the afternoon of the wedding. Her sewing machine broke the morning of. When she made my wedding dress, I told her it had to be done the night before. A month before my wedding she was perplexed since everyone was bothering her that my dress wasn’t done, everyone except me. She got made at me for not caring about it, and I said I trust you that it will be done – and it was.
    I myself feel the same about sewing as you, I am in awe of you for making the grad dress – I would have suggested a knit dress.

  13. Last fall I made 8 princess skirts out of tulle for a preschooler bday party. Simple skirts. No boning involved (wow, does that sound obscene or what???). And I thought I was going to go insane. Tulle is not my friend. So, you are either a far better seamstress(and woman) than I am, or you are far crazier. πŸ™‚ Good luck!

  14. Gosh. That reminds me of when I was still in the SCA. I had more fun than I want to think about trying to sew things like sideless surcoats on the bus to events. Have fun with your boning!

  15. I had two thoughts as I was reading this: 1) You are the kind of mother I aspire to be; one who can, and will, make beautiful princess costumes and graduation dresses for her daughters, as well as knit copious amounts of gorgeous things while entertaining the masses on a daily basis.
    2) How glad this story makes me that I’m the mother of a boy, who will likely never, ever want me to sew anything for him more complicated than a ripped trouser hem… πŸ™‚

  16. Wow. Just wow. I do hope you have a serger for all that tulle. (By the way, is there a pattern for that gorgeous baby blankie?)

  17. You know one of the problems with reading blogs is that I get tempted into buying things!! Man that book holder is the bomb!!
    Yikes Must Resist!!
    Hey looks like I am headed your way in August for a little vacation! Yippeeee

  18. Good God! Is there really any garment that could ever need that much tulle? I’m sure it’s going to be amazing, what with the tulle and the boning and such. And such pretty colors! You can do it πŸ™‚

  19. Oh no! You did *not* show me that picture of the microwave flower press. Oh please tell me you didn’t!! I’m now off to investigate the possibility of owning one of these. (Like I need ANOTHER hobby!!)
    I can’t wait to see pictures of the dress!

  20. A friend of mine down in Dallas is a superb professional dressmaker/costumer. I was watching him work once and said I wished I knew how to sew. He told me it’s not a skill, it’s a curse.
    Now I see his point.
    Black to the prom. Reminds me of how my sister also wanted to wear black to the prom, and did, but not until after rather a heated discussion with my mother about why a pink flouncy thing would be more becoming. (I realize now it wasn’t about the color. It was more that even at 16, my sister in her well-cut black sheath looked like Rita Hayworth.)
    Don’t forget to take pictures of her and her date until she is just about ready to die of embarrassment.

  21. You are amazing to tackle all that tulle! And boning – some of the experienced among the posts here may be able to help in time.
    About Lee Valley – fabulous place!! I think we’ve acquired nearly every useful gadget and tool they sell. I even took their graph paper to my knitting retreat for charting cables – worked great!
    CBM in Burbank,CA

  22. No need for prom dresses here, but I have made many a Halloween costume. My daughter always wants to be some sort of animal, but one horrible year, when they were out of bat patterns, she decided to don the garb of Princess-Ariel-as-a-human-bride-to-Prince-Eric. This involved many, many yards of slippery costume satin, tulle out the wazoo, and red bias trim sewn down along pointed edges. (I know Ariel’s dress has blue trim, but red is my daughter’s favorite color and far be it from her to just take things they way they come. I wonder where she gets THAT.)
    The prom dress looks beautiful, and I know Meg will enjoy it as much as my little PAAAHBTPE loved her dress. And then all this snipping and cursing will be worth it.

  23. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you. I’ve worked with boning and know what you’re up against. Can’t wait to see a pic of the dress.

  24. Lee Valley is evil, I tell you. Evil!
    How dare they lure me in with the promise of gardening supplies, then steer me by beer glasses, specialty tools and the kitchen section. Then they have the nerve to send me catalogues all the time.
    The prom dress is lovely.

  25. I took a day of ‘sick leave’ to finish my daughter’s grad dress – incorporating two Laura Ashley patterns (it was the late 80’s). I had to buy more fabric for the bodice the day before, because I $%$Ced up the first one. There was only 1/2 metre left on the bolt – and that was all I needed! Staying up all night, the night before, didn’t get it done. I was ironing the hem when her date arrived. Oh, and there was some tulle involved – a crinoline – which tore at her carefully chosen (read $$$)pantyhose in “champagne”.
    linda b., in ottawa

  26. Oof. That’s a LOT of tulle! At least if you have any left over you can gather it all up, staple it to itself at the top (no sewing!) and hot glue some black feathers to it to make a pretty kickin’ set of Raven Tail Feathers. Just pin that (safety pins- again no sewing!) to the back of a black dress (I have a long slim jersey knit one that I use) and voila! Add a black beak cut from card and tied to the head with black ribbon for a more convincing look… I always get loads of compliments at Halloween!
    I bet Meg will look *stunning* in that dress. She is such a beautiful girl to begin with! It’ll be worth it in the end, boning and all.
    Does this make you wonder what Sam will come up with in the future to complete the run of sewing nightmares? πŸ˜‰

  27. I love Lee Valley!!! It’s my favorite place to get gifts.
    Oh, and I had boning in my Wedding Dress. The jokes that came from that incident are endless.

  28. Damn. I so wish I could come help you with the dress (I’ve done boning before). Sadly, I have to instead spend the day earning a living. However, I will devote large amounts of mental energy towards hoping veryveryVERY strongly that it all gets done in time.
    Please tell me you bought a separating zipper? It makes the zipper hell more bearable.
    Can’t wait to see the finished product.

  29. The only garment with boning I own is my bra.
    You sew. How cool is that! I am the first-born daughter of the best seamstress in the *world*. Mom can sew anything, create anything out of fabric, copy any dress/outfit…all without use of patterns. This, of course, boggles my mind. It is a craft (skill…art!) which has obviously skipped a generation in our family. I am the mom who makes Halloween costumes with fabric and a glue gun. I kid you not, it can be done.

  30. Just wanted to say that you definitely win the “Good Mother” award. My mother stopped at my dance costumes in elementary school. She would have sent me over to the alterationist.
    One of the things I inherited from my mother is my ability to shirk housework and stack things in big piles. Clothes. Papers. I’m a consumate stacker.

  31. I love sewing pattern writers. They work with a different language. I always end up looking at the picture on the cover of the pattern and just trying to logic out what I would need to do in order to get something that looks like that. This is probably the reason that I sew garments approximately once every four years.

  32. That is going to be a lovely dress. I wish I had anything like the confidence/gall/insanity/working sewing machine necessary to make something like that. The blanket? It’ll be fine. If you knit it while waiting, I’m sure the mindlessness won’t bother you so much.

  33. I want it on the record somewhere that I TOLD Steph that this dress would require boning. After tempting us with Lee Whatis, you must supply dress pictures with the prerequisite sullen-looking teenager, you know!

  34. Being an avid gardener (as well as a knitter) I know Lee Valley tools for their excellent garden tools and resources. I really had no idea they stocked other interesting implements!
    I’ve been reading your blog only a couple of months now, but really love how your sense of humor comes through in your posts and your “voice” in general. Reminds me of a friend in Ontario whom I see much too rarely.
    And, I’m loving your book, too, which I allow myself to read in small bites so the experience will last longer.

  35. My trick for the horribly long projects, stop them short and call them something other then what they were supposed to be, like a nursing cover. But no, there’s no trick like you said it’s a matter of stamina. But think of how good it will feel to knit those socks once that blanket is done.

  36. I feel for you! But I’m sure the dress turned out wonderful. I myself was lured into a fabric store today by my housemate, and I ended up buying several metres of fabric. And I definitely hate sewing.
    I think buying fabric is an illness closely related to the SABLE syndrome.

  37. Oh. My. Goodness. I just read the “boning is so easy” tutorial you linked to, and I feel the need to lie down. You are an amazing mother to do this!

  38. Rachel–don’t bet on it–my sons have made a lot of sewing requests over the years–currently one needs a complete wizard outfit including robes and cloak w/hood, the other wants me to duplicate his Matrix coat but with a different collar and lapels.
    Before that he wanted me to LINE his Matrix coat. This thing is constructed similarly to a princess dress, but add to that coat detailing. In black.

  39. Ummm, Since you mention boning, I assume (and maybe I shouldn’t) that the dress is strapless?
    If so, you may want to revise the description of the wearer as – child.
    The whole project sounds most sophisticated. Can’t wait to see the photos.
    Happy graduation, Megan.

  40. I think you’re nuts but that dress will be lovely. How can you sew in this heat?!
    I really like that baby blanket. Too bad it’s getting a bit dull to knit.

  41. Late again, yet a few quiet observations. (Don’t answer, sew, sew.)
    Ladies, this isn’t a prom. It’s a graduation.
    And it isn’t Amanda — it’s Megan.
    She’s doing all this for a what — 8th grade graduation?
    The ante just hit the ceiling.

  42. An old trick from running wardrobe for musicals: duct tape holds hems vey well in a pinch, and is more reliable than a quick hand-sew.
    Not that this would ever be necessary in real life, of course. Because I never leave sewing to the last minute.
    (I can’t keep a straight face while typing that. How bad am I?)

  43. Happy Graduation to both Mom and Meg! The dress will be beautiful- I have no doubt. Don’t forget to take tissues to the ceremony Mom!

  44. You know, I sometimes get overwhelming waves of anxiety when reading this blog. Like, need a “lie down” waves. Like the kind I feel when staying up all night the evening before a something or other needs to be done and I (will tell you later so as not to curse you unintentionally). I can’t wait to see the dress, I have a feeling I know exactly what you are going for. The girl will be a knock out and for sure, she will make a statement! Happy Graduation Meg! You go girl!

  45. Boning is doable! It’s just like putting I-cord into a casing, except easier since the boning is rigid. The only trick is to sew off both ends once it’s in there so it doesn’t go travelling while being worn.
    For someone who doesn’t favor sewing, you certainly take on some adventurous patterns. You certainly deserve a medal or ribbon or sainthood out of all this.

  46. Can’t wait to see the finished dress, I always finish sewing outfits for me the day I need to wear them, it all adds to the fun of it!
    Boning is very doable, gathering yards of tulle on the other hand, I avoid if I can.
    Happy Graduation.

  47. My Gawd! Boning and tulle – you are one brave woman! Or crazy, but I’m not gonna be the one to decide which. πŸ˜‰ I can’t wait to see the finished product on the beautiful lady. She’ll be smashing.

  48. I’ve heard that a piece of zip tie makes a lovely boning substitute. Good luck with the dress and Happy Graduation to your daughter!

  49. “The living room looks like a satanic wedding party played strip poker in there.”
    I just have to say that this is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time.
    And I know you probably don’t want or need kibitzing even though it’s meant to be helpful, but if you ever plan to cut even an inch more cloth ever, and you weren’t just posing handy props for a blog picture, get tailors’ shears. I own lots of the Lee Valley Chinese scissors (yay Lee Valley!) and they are fine for household cutting but dang, my fingers are hurting at the *thought* of using them for a whole sewing project. I have even more respect for your perseverance!

  50. Go Stephanie! My mum always used to sew me into my dresses before the event, and only put the zip in later for future wear! I remember her cutting me out at the end of the evening!! Would certainly save you an hour or so… Good luck, Jessica

  51. Stephanie, you rock! You are the most amazing woman!!! I cannot believe you sew too (probably equally as well as you knit) along with all your other numerous talents. I HATE sewing. I don’t mind mending (sewing buttons, hemming, etc.), but sewing just doesn’t “blow my frock up” as they say. Truly amazing!
    The blanket is lovely, but you’re right about a long second half. Maybe you should break it down into innings like baseball. Then when you get to the seventh inning stretch, you can let the blanket out of the backpack for a wee bit and tempt yourself with something more interesting…

  52. Are you my mother? My mother took the afternoon off work before five proms so she could finish the dresses she had promised us (my sister and I)would be done weeks before. I absolutely refused to allow her to make my wedding dress – I allowed anyhow. She was fitting my dress and one of my bridesmaids the afternoon before. Sew, sew like the wind and when you are done swear to your family that you will never ever put yourself through that again.
    Pictures – we will need pictures!

  53. Because I admire your sewing determination and the satanic bridal party comment so much, I will share with you the following dirty tricks:
    1. Arrive anywhere really early wihtout any other recourse for distraction. Knit while you wait.
    2. Decide that Saturday’s family treat will be a ride on Tomb Raider at Paramount Park. Leave at noon, make Joe drive, (traffic on the 401, get it?) and knit while you all wait in line. Suggest anyone with their insides still inside ride a second time.
    3. Insist that you need to go to the emergency room to have a doctor look at your bruise because it is suddenly throbbing. I bet this might be how you get the thing finished.
    Good luck.

  54. I love to sew. HATE zippers. HATE sewing pants (it’s a childhood thing).
    LOVE Lee Valley Tools. OOOHHH, sharp snippy things!
    For me, those scissors would have been WAY too close to the fabric.
    You’re the bestest Mom EVER!!!

  55. Boning, ah, yesssss, I remember doing that on my daughter’s half-finished Halloween costume, that she brought to me when her sewing machine went TU. You’ll be glad that you put that in. You wouldn’t want that sweet girl of yours to go falling out of the dress.
    Congratulations to you, Megan! And to you, too, Steph!

  56. My daughter decided a week before prom that she wanted me to make her dress. It ended up a royal blue strapless satin thing, boned bodice, full skirt, with tulle underskirts for volume, and a black velvet bolero. She was too zaftig for the dress and I had to install spaghetti straps – used the velvet. I finished the hem as she was putting the dress on. I will never, ever do anything like that again, even though it was gorgeous.

  57. Another dirty trick: tell them you’re sick. You need a lie down. Sneak the socks in with you.
    I love the baby blanket and can’t wait for the pattern! I hate clothes sewing, zippers, and anything fussy. I am a quilter and prefer the straight forward stuff. What were you thinking???I love your anger and the ranting outbursts. Would love to be a fly on the wall in your house!

  58. you mean my mom wasn’t lying when she told me that other daughters bite their nails during the final hours while the moms sew along and always get everything done? hmm. (Easter Eve was always a long night for her, but my dress was always finished; she has said, much to my dismay, that she will NOT be making my wedding gown because it will cause too much stress for both of us. She’s probably right.) I hope the dress is finished and fits like a dream!

  59. OH. I love Lee Valley. The most useful thing that have for those of us living in TX are the sticky spider traps—they catch scorpions! Whoo hoo

  60. Steph, you are a truly crazy woman… in the best possible way. Only a mother would take on such a dressmaking task. Only a true craftswoman would invent new ways to do things without boning. πŸ™‚
    Rock on, Harlot.

  61. I spent a summer as an intern at a Shakesperean Festival. Corsets with boning and long, long, heavy skirts. Oh, do I know about boning and the sneeze-stifling effect of corsetry. Did you know that boning is called that because the material inserted was actually whale (or some other gentle creature’s) bones? Not a vegetarian-friendly option.

  62. I used to sew professionally for a bar owner. As well as making many a formal gown for my daughter and I. I was always finishing the hems as we were walking out the door. I’ve seen plenty a boning. *s*
    I’m sure it will be wonderful.

  63. I just came out of tulle hell, so I can relate. Two little flower girl dresses, in pink satin with black tulle overlays. They turned out adorable, but man, I’m glad it’s over.
    And I hate zippers, too.

  64. Hmmmmmm, cable ties AND boning. very interesting.
    thanks for the lead to Lee Valley… I liked the hockey set for my son… Christmas maybe. My 1st MIL and I glued beads on to her daughter’s dress the night before her wedding. It was July in New Jersey. Hot, humid and horrible, but everybone looked lovely.
    You ARE a good mom. Your audience awaits.

  65. You have a way with words. Always. The dress thing? Done that. Finishing off a hem even as the date was knocking on the door. But my step-daughter looked like a dream and so will yours. The duct tape comment? Red Green would be proud! Hee Hee

  66. That sneak peek was too much. I’m dying to see this dress! I can’t believe you’re also a talented seamstress–so much envy. Between spinning and knitting (oh, and work and family, too), I just don’t have the time, even though I’d love to learn. Honestly, though, I’m secretly terrified of sewing machines. My sister sewed her finger to a pair of boxers she made in high school and the thing swelled up and developed an infection that was both heinous and painful.
    Take lots of pictures of that dress so I can live vicariously through you!

  67. Can’t wait to see the dress! Wish I had been there to help – years of sewing those things – boning, tulle and all. Sewing I can do. Designing my own knitting patterns? uh, no. Call next time. I’ll talk you through it.

  68. The boring baby blanket may be boring, but is it ever gorgeous!! I can’t wait to see the finished dress. You’re so very talented! Sewing frightens me. *lol*

  69. Oh I think I know what you are making, but I won’t say cause you probably just wanna keep everyone guessing. I about peed my pants when I read about the satanic wedding party. I have to do sneaky things to me too to get things done. But I felt bad that I hadn’t finished the 2nd sock, as I was working on a stole (first lace), and so I sat down one night and finished it! So know I have my first pair of socks. Thanks again for inspiring me to try.

  70. LOL – indeed, why do we sew when we hateses it? I made my wedding dress. It had a 7.something metre hem on it. Twice over cos it had two layers of fabric. Argh!
    can’t wait to see the done thing!

  71. My mother decided, after my wedding ceremony, that she didn’t like how the cuffs had come out on my wedding dress she’d made, and she told me to give it back to her. I spent my first afternoon of married life, before the reception that evening, back at home, waiting for her to finish (again) and give me back the dress.
    My oldest daughter got married last July. I bought her her dress.

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